Monday, August 26, 2013

The Fastest Gun Alive

One of the Jeanne Crain movies that TCM ran in Summer Under the Stars today that wasn't a premiere is The Fastest Gun Alive. This one she made at MGM, so if you missed it this morning, it's still avilable to purchase on DVD courtesy of the Warner Archive. I would have blogged about it earlier, but there were other movies to blog about yesterday, as well as the passing of Julie Harris. (Heck, I kind of wanted to comment about It Happened One Night being included in Essentials Jr. too.)

The movie starts off with a gunfight involving Arizona gang leader Vinnie Harold (Broderick Crawford). He thinks he's the fastest gun alive, and he's not going to take any nonsense from anybody else who claims that they are faster. Well, in this particular town there's somebody else who gets involved in a gunfight with Vinnie, and loses. Cut to the town of Cross Creek. News travels fast, and word of this particular gunfight has reached Cross Creek, with everybody talking about the gunfight. For whatever reason, this really bothers George (Glenn Ford). He's the owner of the town's dry-goods store, and he refuses to carry a gun or drink, which of course brings other people in town to question his manhood.

It turns out there's a good reason George doesn't pack heat. In a past life, he was the fastest gun alive. It made him famous, but also made him an object for other people who wanted to challenge him, reminiscent of Gregory Peck in The Gunsfighter. In fact, George is in Cross Creek with a different name because he's trying to put his past behind him, at the behest of his wife Dora (Jeanne Crain). But with everybody needling George, and with people making up nonsense about fastest guns alive, George finally snaps. He walks into the bar, orders a drink, and shows off how he is, in fact, the real fastest gun out there.

This presents a problem. As I said earlier, news travels fast, so word of George's latest exploits are bound to get out to other towns. In fact, at least one of the town's citizens wrote a letter to somebody back east talking about the exploits. However, it's a Sunday morning, and the mail hasn't gone out, what with Cross Creek being in the middle of nowhere. Although it's George's intent to leave Cross Creek and try to set up a new life with another new identity, the townsfolk like him and are willing to "forget" anything ever happened, and, like a sitcom with no continuity, never again make mention that anything happened.

But, there's a complication. Vinnie has robbed a bank, and he and his gang have made it to Cross Creek on their escape. Although most of the town's citizens are in church, the bartender is being waylaid by Vinnie, and one young boy walks into the bar, which is not the start of a bad joke. Well, maybe it is; the kid accidentally lets slip about George's exploits, and Vinnie wants to know who this guy is who claims to be faster on the draw than he is. And if the townsfolk won't reveal who among them that is, Vinnie is willing to burn the whole town down.

I've stated several times that westerns aren't my favorite genre, but The Fastest Gun Alive isn't a bad movie. Glenn Ford is good enough as the morally conflicted man, while Broderick Crawford brings the same bluster he had in All the King's Men and Born Yesterday to the Old West. The story is good, although it feels a bit slow at times. One scene pads the running time by having Russ Tamblyn, at a town party, do a dance involving shovels among other props. Tamblyn is a good dancer, but the whole dance scene seems incongruous with the rest of the movie. There's also some exposition involving George having daddy issues that I didn't think it was particularly necessary to drive the plot along. The story actually has a logical ending, except that it doesn't seem like something that would have happened in real life. All in all, The Fastest Gun Alive provides a solid 90 minutes of entertainment.

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